Nezha Lahrichi, who served as an economic advisor to transformative prime ministers, promises Morocco has the capacity for an economic transition towards more autonomy.
Rabat – Prominent Moroccan economist Nezha Lahrichi has outlined a new vision for the Moroccan economy—one that accommodates the changing global trends.
In an interview on May 3, she encouraged agility as the appropriate response to the current health crisis.
Currently an academic professor, Lahrichi worked as an advisor to Abderrahmane Youssoufi and Driss Jettou, two heads of government who at the dawn of the new millennium shaped the Moroccan economy and whose impact is still felt. She also chaired the National Council for Foreign Trade (CNCE) as well as the Moroccan Export Insurance Company (SMAE), positions that gave her influence in Moroccan trade policy.
‘We have to learn to live with the virus’
Lahrichi refuses to give simple solutions to the economic stagnation COVID-19 caused. She lists uncertain factors, such as the unknown length of the lockdowns, global actors imposing protectionist policies, or the yet unknown impact on the airline industry.
Many elements are beyond any government’s power to manage, so Lahrichi believes it is pointless to provide generic answers to the reality that is not yet fully understood. Her advice for the global pandemic is “asking the right questions to avoid the wrong answers.”
She poses questions she calls obvious, yet they require honest, profound reflections. What is the extent a state should intervene in business? Which group will be the most vulnerable to unemployment: The qualified, the unskilled, or the graduates? What impact will the crisis have on consumption, taking psychological factors into account?
The economist withdraws from easy answers, advocating for agility instead. Her recipe for effective mitigation of the crisis is cautious: “Act, observe the result, and modify if necessary.“
‘When we want, we can’
The real challenge according to the former economic advisor is the long-term growth potential of the kingdom. The new global trend is to reverse globalization towards greater economic autonomy of nation-states, and Lahrichi believes the outbreak of COVID-19 will only speed up the process.
That is not to say that countries will turn their backs on global integration completely, yet “a certain strategic autonomy must be organized.”
The economist believes Morocco has the capacity to achieve such autonomy, a view she backs up by the current efficient management of the health crisis. Lahrichi highlights that the domestic industries are key to the economic transformation—during COVID-19, the textile industry adapted to produce masks and fully satisfy domestic demand.
Morocco needs to launch “a real industrial policy based on internal resources.” The transformation should also aim at freeing Morocco from foreign restrictions, such as those the IMF imposed. Lahrichi warns against introducing Western-style austerity measures as leading to “social disasters.”
“We are in the process of defining a new development model,” she noted. “This health crisis has given us a lesson: When we want to, we can.”